I live by the axiom, “So many records to listen to, so little time.” That’s not an excuse; just reality. And it has nothing to do with being a music writer. If you’re a voracious music fan, there’s no way, no matter how many records per day you slug through, that you can hear it all. If today, I started listening to just my Beethoven Symphony cycles, it would literally be months before I could come up for air.
Playing the blues gets old fast. Since this most fundamental American popular music, stopped being the African-American party music of choice, and became a traditional music, celebrated as the precursor of rock'n'roll, blues players face a stark choice: change, or be content with playing small clubs and bars.
"So where did it all go wrong, George? When did the major-label record business begin slipping away?"
Before he can answer, I recall something George Avakian once told me over the phone. "Goddard Lieberson [former president of Columbia Records] said, 'I'm tired of sitting in A&R meetings with record guys. Get me some lawyers and accountants who don't want to argue about music.'"
"I don't remember saying that, but that's very interesting," Avakian says with a mischievous smile of recognition.
Big bands died out back in the 1950s, right? They went away when the jitterbug faded and folks began dancing to music other than swing? And then real jazz fans departed when the bebop soloists came along and made big-band players look clumsy and quaint?
Berlin was a much smaller market yet there were some interesting music stores, headed by Mr. Dead & Mrs Free which sells only new vinyl. Nearby was Rock Steady Records (pictured above) which had a decent selection of used vintage vinyl. I hear the flea market by the Brandenburg Gate has a number of vinyl dealers but somehow I never made it there.
I was saddened today to read about the December 22 passing of Ruth Wallis, a singer from the 40's through 60's who specialized in creative naughtiness. Born in Brooklyn (where else?), she sang with Benny Goodman and owned her own record label, but it was her risque tunes like, "The Dinghy Song" ("He had the cutest little dinghy in the Navy") that brought her the most fame and which became the basis for an unlikely 2003 Broadway hit, Boobs! The Musical: The World According to Ruth Wallis. Here are a few classic couplets from the Wallis-penned title tune:
"You've gotta be filled
Two fried eggs will never grab him like grapefruits will
(And they're both breakfast foods)
But listen girls, don't try to fool your lover
Remember, he can go to Good Year if he wants rubber"
"Just think if all us girls had boobies with fluorination
We could take the cavities out of the whole damn nation
A nibble a day keeps the dentist away"
"Some push 'em up
Some stick 'em out
And some keep 'em flappin' in the breeze
Some tie then down because if they don't
They would hang down to their knees
Just you tease"
Being addicted, or even just a fan of The New York Times means you have to suss out the necessary assumptions and become expert at translating what's really going on there. Even overlooking the woeful sports section and regular incidents of pathetic pandering—a recent travel piece by Robert Kennedy Jr. comes to mind—the institutional psychoses and attitude, subtle as they may be, that the paper infuses, again ever so delicately, into everything is quite amazing.